04 September, 2017

Family traditions

One of the hazards of being an editor of non-fiction is that you have to delve deeply into work that you may or may not agree with, but also deal with articles (or books if that is what you edit) that are convicting and persuasive. It gets me in that vulnerable area of negatively comparing myself with others.

So the other day I read through the rough draft of an article about family traditions. It, of course, made me think about our own family traditions: What do we have? Have we made enough of an effort in this area? With our boys now 12, nearly 15, and 18, is it worth starting new traditions?

So, here is a list of the bigger traditions that we do currently have:
  • Christmas in Japan
    • involves being at home and unwrapping presents after breakfast and morning jobs, 
    • food: Christmas morning tea (with home made fruit cake and chocolate balls) and a roast lunch (chicken or turkey).
    • in the last few years it has included going to church on Christmas eve night. When we're in Australia we attend church on Christmas morning.
    • calling family on Skype or Facebook Messenger
  • birthdays
    • presents before/during breakfast
    • home-made cake (or cheesecake), usually decorated in some way
    • use Splayds with the cake for dessert (like sporks, but an Australian brand, given to us for our wedding)
  • camping in general has become a tradition
    • we've had a tradition of going camping on Thanksgiving, but that might be nixed this year for two reasons: camping in cold weather with summer gear is hard and the snow last year really iced the cake; this year CAJ's Thanksgiving holiday is only one day instead of one and a half days.
    • lots of foods have become camping traditions, especially breakfast and dessert are traditions, eg. damper, bacon and eggs. And a new one that we made up ourselves: Biwaza (pizza on damper—which is like soda bread—folded over and cooked on the fire)
  • a week's holiday up in the mountains in a mission cabin around Christmas, which has a set of its own traditions. Here's a post about that.
  • New Year's Eve with local friends (only a two-year old tradition, but strong enough to affect when we decided to go on holidays this year)
  • going out for all-you-can-eat to celebrate the end of a school year
  • konbeni lunches when travelling. Is this really a tradition? "konbeni" is Japanese for convenience store and our boys love eating their food. Japanese convenience stores are amazing. I've written about them before, for example, here.
  • holding hands and singing grace before meals
    • we used to sing at bed-time when reading the Bible and praying with the boys, but this has fallen out of practise as they've gotten older
  • reading after meals
So I guess that is a fair list. Most of them aren't fancy traditions and mostly surrounding specific times of the year. I'm not a fussy person and I don't like spending lots of time on decorations. I guess we're also not overtly gushy people. Perhaps that is something of an Australian thing? So a tradition for us is more likely to be something that we do, rather than something we say or write. It also tends to more be centred around spending time with people.

Can you see how most of our traditions are also centred around life in Japan and how that makes Australia not feel quite so much like home? Some traditions are transportable: like camping, birthdays, and reading. Others are just different when we're in Australia: like having at least two Christmases as we travel between our widely spaced extended family.

Writing the list also helped me to realise that there are things that we used to do, but are no longer part of our lives because we're at a different developmental stage with our kids. That's okay too.

This last one on this list was really the reason that I started this post. It's a habit I've been in for many years now (probably at least as long as I've been blogging, and that is over eight years now, see this post) and we've been through many books. Our 18-year-old still loves to listen as long as we choose sufficiently interesting books, which has been challenging over the years, with a six-year gap, but the gap is closing now.

We've just finished this book by an Australian author. It is in the fairy-tale-type genre with a princess on a quest, wizards, magic, and transmogrifications. I was doubtful that it would grab our boys, with a title like that and a young female protagonist. But even I, who is not into this kind of literature, enjoyed the story.

Here's the next one that we started last night. This is a book we studied at high school. I didn't like it then, but want to read it to my boys, knowing that they like genres I don't. It is an "end of the world as we know it" type novel. Another compelling reason to read it to them is that most Americans have never heard of it, I'm a little strange, I know! I like introducing my boys to something from my Australian youth that they will probably not come across except through us.

Do you struggle with traditions? Do you find it hard not to negatively compare yourself to others who appear to do so much more? My advice would be to sit down and write a list of  things that you do regularly and look forward to. Be encouraged. You don't have to "keep up with the Joneses". The smallest things, like using a special plate at a specific time or even just a hug goodbye at the start of the school day, can be a tradition. Here's an encouragement:
Studies show that happy families not only have treasured traditions, they constantly evolve new ones that help them find their way through the inevitable changes of growing up. But don't worry if you aren't consciously "creating" traditions. Your family is naturally developing them, from Sunday morning pancakes to bedtime blessings. The way you celebrate birthdays or mark anniversaries, the way you say goodbye to each other every morning or shop for fall clothes each school year; anything repeated is a tradition, the stuff of which memories are made. You don't need anything fancy, just love. What creates a tradition is revisiting it year after year, updating as your child gets older. (from here)
Phew, this turned into a much bigger post than I'd planned. I'd better stop here. If you'd like to share some of your less elaborate traditions, please do. (I think the elaborate traditions are great, if you have the energy and inspiration, but aren't necessarily inspiring to others who don't.)

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I struggle with implementing traditions with my boys. We pray with Rory before bedtime and say grace before lunch and dinner, but we don't have any set Bible reading times. I just read children's Bibles or Christian books with them as they ask. For Christmas, we have a tree and presents and I've tried doing an Advent calendar the past couple of years. This year, we did an Easter egg hunt for the first time. I think I've just had too much on my mind and struggling with PND and sleep deprivation over the past couple of years to do much more. I have to keep reminding myself to take it easy and not compare myself to others.